Press Release

Restaurant Workers Demand Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Unpaid Wages and Protest Outside of Dongari Restaurant


Restaurant Owners Refuse to Pay Months of Unpaid Wages to Their Workers

Fort Lee, NJ — The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s (AALDEF) New Jersey-Asian American Legal Project (NJ-AALP) and former Dongari employees protested outside of Dongari Restaurant today on Main Street in Fort Lee, New Jersey demanding tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages. The workers and their supporters gathered and protested against their former employers, Her Nam Soo and Kim Myung Sook, with signs reading, “Pay the unpaid wages now!” and “Shame on you!”

The Korean immigrant workers–two cooks, a waiter, and a waitress–worked five to seven days a week and put in up to 84 hours of hard labor each week preparing the food and serving customers at the restaurant. The restaurant’s owners failed to pay the workers their wages for up to nine months of work despite repeated promises to do so. Elizabeth Koo, AALDEF NJ- AALP Community Organizer, said, “Hard work deserves fair pay. These workers put in months of hard labor but the employers refuse to compensate them for the wages they rightfully earned. We demand that the employers pay the wages they owe to the workers immediately.”

Mrs. Kim, former waitress at Dongari Restaurant, said, “The employers made many promises to pay us. But they lied to us and broke all their promises. Her and Kim took advantage of our trust and hard work. What makes it even worse is that they issued bad checks to us. On top of not getting paid, we had to pay additional fees to the bank for the bounced checks.”

“It’s been so difficult to survive. To have worked for that much time for practically nothing- it’s just not fair. We have to pay rent and feed our families. The employers have been able to get away with this for so long. We’re here to show them that they can’t get away with this and we’re not going anywhere until we get our money,” said Mr. Choi, former cook at Dongari Restaurant.

Alexander W. Saingchin, AALDEF Staff Attorney said, “These workers are owed tens of thousands of dollars in wages including minimum wage and overtime pay. Federal and New Jersey State laws require employers to pay their workers at least the minimum wage, as well as overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. The minimum wage in New Jersey is $7.15 per hour. Moreover, workers are entitled to 1.5 times their hourly wage for each hour worked over 40 hours a week. Workers have rights to minimum wage and overtime pay regardless of their immigration status.”

AALDEF NJ-AALP opened its office in Newark, NJ in July 2007 and since 2005 has conducted free legal clinics in northern and central New Jersey to assist Asian immigrants and Asian Americans with employment and immigration matters. NJ-AALP has worked closely with the Korean immigrant community by providing free legal advice, conducting ‘Know Your Rights’ seminars, and representing Korean immigrant workers in lawsuits for unpaid wages, minimum wage, and overtime violations. In the past 18 months, NJ-AALP won close to $170,000 in back wages on behalf of Korean immigrants working in New Jersey. Individuals seeking assistance may contact the AALDEF NJ-AALP helpline at (888) 406-1555. Korean language assistance is available.

For more information:
Elizabeth Koo
Community Organizer
212.966.5932 ext. 213